Staring at Anna Bay Sooty's pouch, I feel a bit like a papparazzi photographer waiting for the latest celebrity to emerge outside of the London restaurant or nightclub du jour...not knowing whether I would be waiting a minute or an hour...
I'm given a choice between yard 10 or two of the yards nearest to ICU. It's no contest really: one of the two yards contains Anna Bay Sooty, and Anna Bay Sooty contains a precious little joey called Smudge. At least, that's what we call him/her as in my house; you know, like a smudge of soot.
My other koala is Livingstone Clover, a big boy who spends most of his time high in the tree in yard 4. He's got a limp on him like Innes Wonga used to, but he's surprisingly agile, even for a big boy. It's easy doing his yard since he's up on yonder branch.
Cheyne sticks her head over the fence to ask if I'll prepare yard 2 for Barton Glen, a koala transferring from ICU. So I set about sorting out the pots and filling the water bowl. When I'm done, Cheyne reappears looking for Amanda who's not in the vicinity, so she asks me those magic words: "want some handling practice?"
I can't really go around calling myself the koalawrangler when the most of I've wrangled lately is our kitten. (Although, kitten-wrangling, like cat-herding with which it is closely related, is not an activity for the faint of heart).
So I roll up my sleeves literally and figuratively and head into ICU. Cheyne hands me a bag and points me in the direction of Barton Glen's unit. I'm horizontally challenged so she drags up a stool for me to stand on. But that's where her assistance ends. I'm doing this on my own. I tell her she's terribly mean, but of course I know that this is as it should be: how else am I going to get good at koalawrangling if I always look to a more experienced wrangler to take over? What good would I be if called upon in a rescue sitation?
But I haven't bagged a koala for a while so Cheyne does give me a tip upfront. "Just drop the bag over him like he's a bell." I do this and then Barton reacts as though in slow motion, trying to shift out from under the bag, but not at any kind of great speed. I go for his wrists under the bag and Cheyne says, no, it's better to try to topple him into the bag rather than use the bag as a means of picking him up.
I reclose the bag and carry Barton Glen out to his interim home, yard 2. I put the bag down gently and ease it open to let him crawl out. He looks around, blinking, as they all do when we do the hey-presto! unit/yard swap. But he regains his composure and hightails it up onto the gunyah and tucks into the leaf I've prepared for him. There's a group of visitors who are delighted by his appearance and crowd around to watch him acclimatising to his new environs.
Click here to view more of today's koala hospital snaps.